Thursday, May 31, 2007
Over at Naked Authors my favorite former NARC goes all gushy on us and points out how wonderfully generous this community of crime writers can be.
I rarely agree with Born* about anything except that Jeff Shelby smells like wet socks and chews with his mouth open, but in this he's absolutely right.
Go read his love letter to all of you. It's beautiful, in a manly man kind of way.
*Jim Born has appeared in several Cuban porn films including:
and his latest
It Feels Like Its On Fire.
...the rebirth of Doris Day's virginity.
A friend who means well told me about Hollywood's turn to more moral screenplays and suggested that if I wanted to make money in this business I should write books and films with "no sex, no violence, and no profanity."
Which sounds like a pretty narrow definition of morality to me.
But I know what she means. Americans seem, publicly at least, to want a return to those halcyon days when, gathered around the Thanksgiving table, you couldn't ask Dad for a thigh or a breast without giving Mom the vapors.
In the interest of serving my reading public, both of you, I'm reprinting part of the Hollywood Production Code of 1930, often called the Hays Code. Because these rules, fellow writers, are what may dictate what gets published and produced in the near future.
As a fun exercise in prudery, you may want to pick the rule you like most and name a writer or movie that violates the bejesus out of it. For instance, I choose Rule 1.b. under Particular Applications and nominate The Passion of the Christ.
And yes, I know I'm going to hell.
Have fun, but not too much fun. Leave your pants on. And no swearing.
The Hollywood Production Code of 1930
1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
I. Crimes Against the Law
These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation.
a. The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.
b. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.
c. Revenge in modern times shall not be justified.
2. Methods of Crime should not be explicitly presented.
a. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.
b. Arson must subject to the same safeguards.
c. The use of firearms should be restricted to the essentials.
d. Methods of smuggling should not be presented.
3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
4. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, will not be shown.
The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.
1. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.
2. Scenes of Passion
a. They should not be introduced when not essential to the plot.
b. Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.
c. In general passion should so be treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.
3. Seduction or Rape
a. They should never be more than suggested, and only when essential for the plot, and even then never shown by explicit method.
b. They are never the proper subject for comedy.
4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
5. White slavery shall not be treated.
6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.
8. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.
9. Children's sex organs are never to be exposed.
The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should always be subject to the dictates of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the audience.
Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is forbidden.
Pointed profanity (this includes the words, God, Lord, Jesus, Christ - unless used reverently - Hell, S.O.B., damn, Gawd), or every other profane or vulgar expression however used, is forbidden.
1. Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture.
2. Undressing scenes should be avoided, and never used save where essential to the plot.
3. Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden.
4. Dancing or costumes intended to permit undue exposure or indecent movements in the dance are forbidden.
1. Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passions are forbidden.
2. Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be regarded as obscene.
1. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.
2. Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.
3. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled.
The treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste and delicacy.
X. National Feelings
1. The use of the Flag shall be consistently respectful.
2. The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry of other nations shall be represented fairly.
Salacious, indecent, or obscene titles shall not be used.
XII. Repellent Subjects
The following subjects must be treated within the careful limits of good taste:
1. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments for crime.
2. Third degree methods.
3. Brutality and possible gruesomeness.
4. Branding of people or animals.
5. Apparent cruelty to children or animals.
6. The sale of women, or a woman selling her virtue.
7. Surgical operations.
So there you are, Planeteers, the future of fiction. Don't say I didn't warn you.
As always, I've cross-posted this to Crimespace.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
What do cats and dogs know that your average American manager doesn't?
OK, that's a trick question. To begin with, American managers are quite competent at kissing someone's else's ass, but their own? No, not so much.
No, I'm talking about naps here, people. That refreshing post-prandial break in the day that we've always suspected was beneficial, but has always been looked upon as sloth by our Calvinist culture.
Well, wrong again, Mr. Corporate Capitalist Oppressor. According to a new book by Harvard University scientist and wide-awake sleep expert Dr Sara Mednick, an afternoon nap can make you thinner, put new bounce in your bedroom, improve your health and your work productivity.
A Greek study published this year said that those having a mid-day snooze have a 37 per cent lower chance of a heart attack. The thinking is, naps act as an antidote to stress. To which nappers like myself repond with a resounding DUH.
Dr Mednick says that nappers make fewer mistakes and have boosted brainpower (that's me!) and learn new skills faster. OK, so not all studies are perfect. I still don't know how to retrieve the voice messages on our cell phone.
But I'm in good company with this nap thing. Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, took regular naps, or that's what they told their staff when they closed the door and dimmed the lights.
Winston Churchill not only drank heroically, he also attributed winning the Battle of Britain to naps. Leonardo da Vinci believed napping helped and I concur. Not that I'm inventing the helicopter or anything, but still.
If that's not enough to get this Nap Revolution off the ground, think about this: Recent findings show that the sleep-deprived people are less productive, fatter, more likely to take sick days, struggle with relationships and are more likely to cause accidents like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Chernobyl. Yikes!
The ideal time to nap is, according to Mendick, between 1 pm and 3pm. According to our two dogs and cat, any time is an ideal nap time.
So put down your tools! Pick up your pillows! And lie down for the nation!
Naps for Industry!
Naps for National Security!
Naps For Health!
Take it from your pets. And sleep your way to a happier, sexier, more productive world. I would lead this revolution, if only I wasn't so tired.
Somebody get the lights.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
It's a genuine Ray Banks autograph, dated and everything. And when Ray gets to be fabulously famous, as we all know he will, this sucker's going up on e-bay. We're talking retirement fund, baby.
Oh, what was inside? A book. A new book. A new book called Donkey Punch and it looks like this:
I'm starting Donkey Punch today. The rest of you can read the back of your cereal bran boxes and eat your hearts out.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
A. I'm usually drunk.
B. I'm deranged.
C. You are a funny person.
Often, it is all of the above.
But what makes a person funny? What is it that makes one person twist a thought just so, and say the line so right, that it surprises us and makes our diaphragm convulse. What is it about people who write funny, so that the alignment of words, the rhythm of the language, makes us laugh?
Dick Cavett has a column over at The Times that runs that question around. Try it here. You might need a subscription, and if so, I apologize. But here's part of it:
It took Bob Hope’s longtime head writer, Mort Lachman, to put into words a thing I had only sensed. “Comedy writing can be a fairly easy life,” he said, “and you’ll make absurd amounts of money if you have two things: a sense of humor and the ability to turn on the comic you’re writing for in your head.”
The reason I bring this up is that so many of you are funny writers. You know who you are. You can compose a line or conjure up a word or scene that's absurdly right. You listen to that voice in your head and instead of finding medications that will make it stop, you encourage it. You give it to a character who speaks in a certain way and sees the world in a certain light.
I don't write funny. Not intentionally. It's just that the people in my head are funny people. They say funny things and I write them down. I'm often as surprised as you are.
I like that. It's one of the great things about this job. I only wish the comic inside my head made more money.
What about you? When you write a funny line, is it a struggle? Do you sweat over it? Or does it just pop out? And what about those writers who think they're funny, but sadly for us all, they're not? Can they learn funny or is it like music, you either have the ear or you don't?
Tell me something funny. Then go read Cavett's piece on comedy writing. I'll either be here when you get back...
...or I'll be at the bar. Look for me.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
For you poor benighted souls who don't live in Dixie, this is a magnolia blossom, and in this brief moment before summer smothers us with humidity, the trees are thick with them. The flowers are as big and expansive as a southern girl's vowels and just as fragrant.
The perfume always reminds me of the old school southern doyenne, one of those women who roll with a social grace that seems effortless and yet is as much a skill to be mastered as yoga or gardening. It is a rare skill today and may be as endangered as the demitasse spoon. But that's another topic for another day.
Today, let us pause and enjoy the beauty of this iconic southern flower. This morning I stopped and dipped my snoot into one and it made me as happy as a bee.
So, consider this an extension of yesterday's post. What little things make you happy? What small thing brings you joy? What is your magnolia blossom?
Talk to me.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
That line is from Ferris Bueller, of course, and is the topic for today. The sentiment, not the movie, although that's pretty good, too.
Regular readers know that things have been a little rough at the Home Planet lately, so when I had a chance to play music all night Saturday, I jumped at it. I've been told I had a great time.
I play music with friends. That's what I do when I want to forget all the crap of the day - the deadlines, the family drama, the work-related mindfuck, the guy in the SUV on the cell phone who believes his mind is so powerful that all he has to do is telepathically signal that he's changing lanes and you'll get out of his way.
If I can't play music, I like to nap and nothing beats an old movie on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
But I wonder what you do. Do you fish, go dancing, shoplift things you don't need, work in your marijuana garden, pose your Hummell figurines in suggestive tableaux, or go hunting for the best clam chowder in the Northeast? (Hint: It's in Gloucester.)
That's right. There's no sturm und drang today. No political cheap shots. I'm giving it all a rest. Yeah, I'm still at work, but my head is somewhere else entirely.
So tell me, if you could do anything today, anything at all, what would that be?
Talk to me.
As usual with writer-type stuff, I've cross-posted this to Crimespace.
Friday, May 18, 2007
This morning I learned how to test my copy. It's simple. If you write in Word, check tools, then options, then hit the spelling and grammar tab and check readability statistics.
So of course I had to run my WIP through the grinder to see how it measured up. Understand that this is a fairly ambitious book that deals in some complex themes (or so I tell myself) and here's what I got:
So how about you? Run your mss through the Word reader and as always...
I have cross-posted this to Crimespace.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
At the risk of repeating other blogs, just in case you haven't seen them, here are a few things Jerry Falwell said while he was alive:
"Aids is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."
"I must personally say that I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations."
Forty years later: "You know, I supported Martin Luther King Jr., who did practice civil disobedience."
"I think [Bishop Desmond Tutu]'s a phony, period, as far as representing the black people of South Africa."
"In my opinion, the Antichrist will be a counterfeit of the true Christ, which means that he will be male and Jewish, since Jesus was male and Jewish."
This is what Larry Flynt said yesterday:
My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.
I never thought I'd say this, but Larry Flynt is a class act.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Bob? This better be good and goddamn funny.
Update: Stupidly, I did not provide a linky thing for Bob's book or Cornelia's book, which has been corrected so you can buy a copy of both right now.
...but, sweet Jesus, these make me want to eat my gun.
And Cathy can worry about her weight, but I don't want to see her struggle with bulimia.
What the hell is going on here?
Funky Winkerbean is dragging us through chemo again, For Better or For Worse is wallowing in the indignity of a stroke, and now Ted Forth is unemployed.
Look, if I want to read a downer I'll read Mary Goddamn Worth. What's next? Shoe gets beak cancer from cigars? Hagar gets captured by the English and hanged from a gibbet? Dilbert gets gunned down when Asok goes postal?
Honest, I can get depressed by reading the rest of the paper. So why do the funnies have to be so fucking unfunny.
I can't stand it.
And don't get me started on that suckfest Family Circus.
All I can do is watch and wonder where this driverless bus is taking us, knowing I can't see anything beyond the headlights. And so I work and try not to look past today. I am not a worrier. My wife does enough worrying for all of us.
But I do wish there was something I could do other than sit here waiting for the roof to fall in.
Because I can hear the rafters beginning to give way.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Last year, right before the election, you may recall a young Republican congressman from my home state going on the attack when it came to light that Mark Foley (R-Skeeze) was soliciting male pages for a little game of after-hours stun the muffin.
That's him over there, Patrick McHenry, and you can see him in furious and righteous indignation here.
I wondered at the time why McHenry rushed to cover the considerable backside of Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Biscuitville) in the Foley scandal. Now we may have an answer.
But first, let's talk a bit about voter fraud, the crime that had Karl Rove's knickers in such a twist that the reluctance of some US Attorneys to pursue specious cases of this heinous crime led to their being fired by AG Alberto Gonzales. But, it's funny. No US Attorney got the pink slip for overlooking what appears to be voter fraud involving a College Republican, Michael Aaron Lay.
He spent so many nights enjoying Representaive McHenry's hospitality that Mr. Lay voted in McHenry's district, even though his home of record was in Tennessee.
Now I see why McHenry was in high dudgeon over the sleezy inferences being made about Mark Foly's relationships with male pages. Just because a Congressman is unmarried and spends long evenings with young men does not mean he's doing anything that might upset his very conservative constituents. After all, he's already come out in favor of The Sanctity of Marriage, and what better heterosexual bona fides does an unmarried Congressman need?
Let me be clear. I don't care who a politician romps naked around the Tidal Basin with. I didn't care when Clinton was dallying with the fat chick, I didn't care when Newt Gingrich was playing introduce the amendment with an aide, and I don't care about the rumor that George Bush is sleeping with Secretary Rice. Hell, Bush could be as gay as organza and I wouldn't care except for the whole incompetence thing.
But voter fraud? Where is Karl Rove when you need him?
Editor's note: The colorful picture from the gay parade is taken completely out of context and has absolutely no relevance to Representative McHenry's sexual orientation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Thanks to secretdeadartist for this.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Sicko is Moore's new doc and according to news sources, he took New York rescue workers suffering from post-9/11 maladies to Cuba for treatment.
This pissed off the administration for a number of reasons. First, no one wants to admit that we let rescue workers expose themselves to poisons, not with Giuliani running as the Savior of 9/11. It's not like the EPA withheld reports that the air was toxic or anything.
Second, health insurance companies are beyond criticism. Do not look at their administrative costs or their practice of denying payments to old people until they die. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Third, Michael Moore went to (drama sting) CUBA! That's right, that island of the damned. That place where Americans must never go. Not ever. Forget it. They even went after Ry Cooder for making The Buena Vista Social Club because everyone knows that octogenarian Cuban musicians only want to destroy our freedoms.
So Michael Moore is in trouble. Even though Michael Moore, much like Jesus and Mary, has apparently turned up on a biscuit.
I love Michael Moore's movies. Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 are terrific films that ask important questions about life in America. Do they have a point of view? Can he be caustically unfair? Does he go after big targets, inviting big reaction?
Does George Bush hold hands with Prince Bandar?
Yes, I've read the critics and find, quite objectively, that they have their heads up their rumps. Really. Go read some of those Moore debunking sites. One actually says that Moore got a phone number wrong! Horrors!
But what really irritates me here is this prohibition of traveling to Cuba. When I was a child in the 50's, I remember being told that one of the great things about being an American is that, unlike the evil commies, we're free to travel any goddamn place we like, because we're Americans, dammit.
But then the Cold Warriors discovered the financial and political clout of the Cuban expat community and now Cuba is verboten, even years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Why do I care? Because I want to set my next John Harper novel in Cuba. I think it's time. Castro is almost dead and we're on the cusp of big changes . I think it's a great setting for a Harper novel, but I can't travel there. Not without catching the eye of Big Brother. The government doesn't want me spending my measly research budget supporting the economy of Fidel. Europeans can go. Central Americans can go. I bet even Iranians can go. But not us.
And that pisses me off.
But maybe Michael Moore's case will re-open talk about lifting the restrictions.
And maybe Michael Moore's film, Sicko, will spur a new look at our health care industry.
And maybe those are monkeys about to fly out of my ass.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
"WMR has been informed that the CEO of a major corporation ... reportedly engaged the services of [the DC Madam's] escort firm while he was the CEO and maintained a residence off Chain Bridge Road in the Ballantrae neighborhood in McLean, Virginia, a few blocks from the headquarters of the CIA."Dick "Dick" Cheney is touring the Mideast right now, but I bet Lynne just can't wait for him to get home.
WMR has confirmed with extremely knowledgeable CIA and Pentagon sources that the former CEO who is on Deborah Jeane Palfrey's list is Vice President Dick Cheney.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
That's right, let's talk about honkeys and spades, ofays and spearchuckers. Let's roll over that slimey rock and take a look at America's great big ugly black-faced bugaboo, that four-letter word with a history so awful that white people want to forget it ever happened (la-la-la I can't hear you) and black people, my age, who remember getting the high balcony at the Carolina Theater, the back end of the bus and the short end of the stick.
I'm working on a novel set in 1941 Washington. When I started this book (back in 1958), I was attracted to the backdrop of a sleepy southern town being shoved onto the world stage before it had time to learn its lines. But as I did my research, I discovered that according to all of the newspapers and magazines of the era, there were no black people in Washington.
One guidebook light-heartedly referred to the black mammy and her picaninnies, but there wasn't a paragraph on Howard University or the rising black middle class, bouyed on the backs of Pullman porters; or the Civil Rights march scheduled for the summer of '41; or the jazz clubs on U Street, so ubiquitous that Ella Fitzgerald called it "the Black Broadway." A third of the city was black and not a mention in the books. Just mammy and her picaninnies. That store sign is from that era. Nice, huh?
We've made progress, but Don Imus can still conjure up "nappy-headed" and Rush Limbaugh can call Barack Obama "Halfrican," so we're not out of the woodpile yet, are we, children.
The reason I bring this up is because I'm not only writing about people in another time, but I'm also writing about people of another race. I'll be the first to admit, I don't know what it's like to be a black man in America. I don't know what it's like now, and I sure don't know what it was like in 1941.
But I can imagine. I can do my research and I can imagine the life of a black woman passing for white, or a jazz musician trying to find work with a swing band, or an honest man working hard behind the counter of a chili joint on Fourteenth Street. I can imagine and then I can write it.
Will it be any good? Will the characters become real people in the reader's mind? Will I find their voices without slipping into black-face stereotype? I don't know. All I can say is what Stephen King once said to his critics:
"I'm doing the best that I can."
It's not that I'm having a hard time. In fact, it's just the opposite. The people show up in my head and speak the way they speak. Whether they're white or black, men or women, cops or robbers, it doesn't matter. I don't know how that happens, exactly, but it does.
And I've always written female characters, and I'm not female. I write kids, and I'm a grown-up (kinda). I've written Latinos and I'm Anglo, Jews and I'm goy, the rich and I'm as broke as a novelist can be.
But it does give me pause, because I need to do it right. Maybe that's why I'm taking so long to finish this book. Or maybe I'm just slack. I don't know. But I know enough to approach this with a great deal of respect for both the people and the craft.
If you have the inclination, share your thoughts about writing from another's POV. Do you find it tricky, or do people just spring up and speak their lines? Do you see them complete or do their features come into focus over time, as mine often do? And do you ever hesitate to write a character out of your own insecurity that you're not good enough to get it right?
talk to me.
(cross-posted to Crimespace)
Saturday, May 05, 2007
But they never do the wrong thing, not without doing whatever needs to be done to make it right. Because men like Marlowe have that code the academics write dissertations on, a code that is simply knowing that the right way is rarely the easy way, but it is the only way.
But my wife is. She stood up for all of us. She stood up, did what needed to be done without a word or a whimper. That's why she'll always be the hero of this picture.